When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.
And how hard is it to land even a minimum-wage job? This year, the Ivy League college admissions acceptance rate was 8.9%. Last year, when Walmart opened its first store in Washington, D.C., there were more than 23,000 applications for 600 jobs, which resulted in an acceptance rate of 2.6%, making the big box store about twice as selective as Harvard and five times as choosy as Cornell. Telling unemployed people to get off their couches (or out of the cars they live in or the shelters where they sleep) and get a job makes as much sense as telling them to go study at Harvard.